DealZone

He’s over here…

July 3, 2008

samuel-israel.jpgIn the end, he wasn’t in some sub-Saharan refuge, an Asian island paradise or a secluded European spa … fugitive former hedge fund manager Samuel Israel III (pictured right) was holed up in a mobile home (pictured below). Israel handed himself over to authorities in Massachusetts to start his 20-year prison sentence after having faked his suicide to avoid doing camper1.jpgtime. Israel, who co-founded Connecticut hedge fund Bayou Group, in 2005 pleaded guilty to a scheme to fabricate returns and cheat investors out of $450 million. He was sentenced in April. Police said his mother convinced him to turn himself over to police. If he was hoping for another shot at fleedom, he can forget about it. “There is not the slightest possibility that I or any other judge would release you at this point,” Judge Michael Ponsor told Israel before turning him over to U.S. Marshals.

Landmark Communications could announce the sale of the Weather Channel to a group made up of NBC Universal, Blackstone and Bain Capital in the next day or two, sources briefed on the matter said. The final price on the cable network, which produces national, regional and local weather-related programs, is expected to be between $3 billion and $3.5 billion, and likely at the higher end of that range, the sources said. The parties have been negotiating directly with Landmark since Time Warner withdrew its bid two weeks ago. There is always a small chance things could fall apart or slow down at the last minute, but absent any such unforeseen problems, the deal should be announced in the next couple days, one of the people said.

BHP Billiton said U.S. antitrust authorities have cleared its unsolicited $170 billion bid for rival miner Rio Tinto. The company’s announcement said the clearance satisfied part of U.S. antitrust law requirements. U.S. law gives antitrust authorities the right to re-open their investigation if new information comes to light before the transaction closes, experts say. However in reality, the United States has now given full clearance to the deal, not that U.S. opposition is a major issue for the mega merger. Problems are more likely to be raised in Asia and Europe.

British market research company Taylor Nelson Sofres rejected an improved approach worth 1.08 billion pounds ($2.14 billion) from WPP, saying it still preferred its merger with German peer GfK. WPP’s latest proposal substantially undervalued the company, said TNS, which had previously opened its books to WPP after rejecting previous approaches. TNS is the world’s third-biggest market research company, with clients such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever, while GfK is the world’s fifth-biggest and counts Panasonic and Henkel among its customers. A completed tie-up would step up pressure on market leader AC Nielsen in an industry which has become increasingly important as companies hunt for more information on their clients and services. Analysts have said from the start that WPP, which would merge TNS with its Kantar business, could disrupt the TNS-GfK deal, bidding up the price.

Storied New York public relations advisor Kekst & Co sold out to French advertising and communications company Publicis Groupe SA for an undisclosed sum. Kekst, known for advising on high profile financial takeovers, was founded in 1970 by its current chief executive, Gershon Kekst, 73, and employs about 70 people. The company, based on Madison Avenue, New York, has advised on more mergers and acquisitions than any other public relations agency over the last two decades, according to data from Corporate Control Alert. One industry insider who asked not to be identified, but is not involved with the deal, speculated that the transaction could be worth around $150 million. The figure assumes estimated profits of $20 million and an estimated deal multiple of 6 or 7 times, plus a premium, that person said.

Other deals of the day:

* U.S. private equity house Lone Star could offer shares in Korea Exchange Bank in a block sale if the pending $6.3 billion deal to sell control of KEB to HSBC falters, KEB chief executive said.

* Australian bank Macquarie has applied to Chinese regulators to buy a nearly 20 percent stake in a trust company, in order to expand its corporate banking and wealth management services in China, sources with direct knowledge of the deal said.

* Huawei Technologies, China’s largest mobile phone equipment maker, has narrowed the field of bidders for a stake in its mobile devices unit — reported to be worth more than $2 billion — to five private equity companies, sources said.

* Telecommunications firm Pacnet said it had signed a joint venture with China-based firm Zhong Ren Telecom, to offer Internet protocol services to Chinese companies and expand its presence in the country.

* International Business Machines said it has bought privately held software maker Platform Solutions Inc and the two companies have dropped their legal complaints against each other.

* Northstar Neuroscience said it received an unsolicited offer from Tang Capital Partners to buy the company for $2.25 per share.

* Hedge fund SAC Capital reported that it had cut its stake in Take-Two Interactive Software to 4.4 percent from 5.3 percent.

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